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Grand Canyon claims the life of Ray Mansfield

Former Pittsburgh Steeler star Center Ray "The Ranger" Mansfield died in the Grand Canyon on Saturday, November 3, 1996. Ray had been hiking with his son and another companion when problems with an ankle caused him to begin to fall behind them. He told the others to go on ahead and that he would catch up with them later that evening at the campsite. He never showed up. His body was found the following morning sitting with his back against a big rock, cigar in hand, facing a magnificent vista where the sun would have set the previous evening. The initial Park Service report lists the cause of death as natural causes. Ray's family has a history of cardiac illness and there were no other signs of external trauma. He was the sixth hiker to die in the canyon since July.

Ray earned his nickname "The Ranger" for his love of the outdoors. Apparently hiking in the Grand Canyon was a favorite activity of Ray's and he had been doing it every year for some time now. When one of his fans learned of how he died he said the he was reminded of the story by Edward Abbey about dying in the desert:

"Looking out on this panorama of light, space, rock and silence I am inclined to congradulate the dead man on his choice of jumping off-place; he had good taste. He had good luck - I envy him the manner of his going: to die alone, on rock under sun at the brink of all the unknown, like a wolf, like a great bird, seems to me very good fortune indeed. To die in the open, under the sky, far from the insolent interference of doctor and priest, before this desert vastness opening like a window into eternity - that surely was an overwhelming stroke of rare good luck."

Ray was with the Steelers from 1964 to 1976 and still holds the team record for the most consecutive games played at 182 games. He also started in the first two Steeler Super Bowls in 1975 and 1976. Andy Russell, another Steeler great, was said to have given a very moving eulogy at Ray's funeral.

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